Making the decision to get a divorce is not easy and it is no secret that they can be expensive. How expensive depends on a variety of factors, some of which you have control over, some of which you don’t. Here are five tips for keeping divorce costs low in Ontario.
Settle out of court
Uncontested divorces are always cheaper than contested divorces. An uncontested divorce is when a couple is able to settle on a separation agreement without the need for litigation. It is still a good idea to hire a lawyer but staying out of court will save you a considerable amount of time and money.
According to Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 2015 survey, the average divorce lawyer’s fees in Ontario for an uncontested divorce were $1,217. The cost of court fees, where a judge certifies the separation agreement and grants the divorce, is a total of $447.
While this number is still in the thousands it pales in comparison to the fees you will be paying if your divorce ends up in court. Canadian Lawyer Magazine estimated in 2015 that the average contested divorce will cost roughly $8,747, over four times the cost of a divorce that has settled out of court. This number can also be much higher. Typically, the more complicated the proceedings the higher the cost.
Sometimes staying out of court isn’t an option. One spouse might be ready to be settle while the other feels hurt, angry and combative. Despite the amicable spouse’s best efforts these cases normally wind up needing a judge to create the final separation agreement.
In this situation make sure you have everything a lawyer might need for your case on hand. The less leg work the lawyer has to do the fewer hours they will bill you for. Bring lots of documents to your first meeting. If possible, ask for a required documents list before the meeting so you can have everything ready to go. The easier you make it for your lawyer the lower the cost in the end.
Know your options
If you and your spouse are relatively amicable but are having trouble agreeing on all terms you may want to try mediation. With a focus on cooperation, a mediator can help you avoid litigation and settle on a separation agreement out of court. Because it is less lengthy and litigious mediation is typically cheaper than duking it out in court.
In Ontario there are no fees for mediation through Legal Aid Ontario, however you must qualify for the program. If you don’t Legal Aid Ontario can still help connect you with other free or sliding scale mediators.
If mediation won’t work and going to court cannot be helped a low-income earner may be eligible for legal aid. If you think this might be the case for you contact Legal Aid Ontario to see if you apply.
No matter how you spin it divorces cost money. They can also be extremely painful for not only the couple but the whole family. If you are considering divorce, make sure you know all your options so you can proceed in a way that is least harmful for all parties involved.